Kings of Leon are getting ready to release their sixth album on September 24. Judging from the two songs that have already been released from Mechanical Bull, “Supersoaker,” and “Wait For Me,” it sounds like the Followill’s won’t disappoint this time around either. Both songs continue down the same path as their last three albums, with big choruses and big guitars. Gibson guitars figure prominently on stage at Kings of Leon shows. Guitarist Matthew Followill often plays a Gibson ES-137, while singer and guitarist Caleb Followill plays a Gibson ES-325, and bassist Jared Followill is basically inseparable from the Gibson Thunderbird these days. Just in time for the release of their new collection of songs, we’ve decided to list the ten best Kings of Leon riffs so far.
Did you know that the crazy space-like sound at the beginning of “Closer” is actually a bass guitar? Jared ran his bass through a pitch shifter and added a hefty amount of reverb. The riff sets the tone for the entire Only By The Night album, and I know for a fact that it is what initially made me a fan of the band. It just sounded so fresh and intriguing, and made me want to hear everything the band had recorded.
Here’s a video of Kings of Leon playing “Closer” at the O2 Arena in London, where you can clearly see Jared using the pitch-shifter pedal during the intro:
“Sex on Fire”
The intro/verse riff in “Sex on Fire” is so simple, yet effective. It is instantly recognizable, and Jared’s bassline adds a heavy feel to it. Kings of Leon aren’t trying to be flashy and technical, and they’ve certainly proven that six notes is more than enough for a riff in their most successful song.
Check out Kings of Leon performing “Sex on Fire” on Later with Jools Holland. It’s full of Gibson goodness:
Can barre chords be used to create a riff? Certainly, at least the way Kings of Leon does it. Caleb is playing the bottom four notes in each barre-chord while Matthew is accenting it with some nice lead playing.
Matthew’s melodic riff that he plays over Caleb’s chord progression in the intro stand out since it’s a very melodic riff in an otherwise monotonous sounding song. Matthew basically repeats the riff again for the song’s solo session. Taken from the Kings’ second album Aha Shake Heartbreak, their sound still very different than that on their later albums, but they were well on their way, and this riff is proof enough. Kings of Leon played “The Bucket” during their first appearance on Later with Jools Holland in 2003.
Check out Jared’s awesome Gibson EB-3 bass:
Another bass riff on the list? Well, certainly. We couldn’t pass up Jared’s haunting four-note riff that serves as the backbone to “Knocked Up.” At seven minutes, it is the band’s longest song, and a live favorite. If you haven’t heard it, be sure to check out the remix of the song with Swedish singer Lykke Li that was included as a B-side to Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” single.
Caleb’s acoustic riff in “Fans” basically repeat in the background throughout the entire song. It’s a really cool riff, because what Caleb does is play an E, A, and B chord using the shape of an open-E chord and just moving the fingers up the neck, letting both E strings ring open, to create a droning effect.
With a main riff somewhat reminiscent of The White Stripes’ “Black Math,” “Four Kicks” is garage rock at its finest. Lots of reverb and a solid rhythm give this power chord riff sort of a swing feel to it.
Just like Tenacious D have their “One Note Song,” Kings of Leon have a one-note (sort of) riff. “Radioactive,” the first single from the band’s previous album Come Around Sundown start out with a riff from Caleb, where he slides up to the thirteenth fret on the low E string. This is repeated at several points throughout the song, adding a nice backdrop for Matthew’s leads.
“Wait For Me”
The picked main riff in the brand new Kings of Leon track “Wait For Me” sounds like something The Edge from U2 might have come up with, both in terms of style and sound. Caleb (or Matthew) is using a lot of modulation on the tone, just like The Edge tend to do, playing single-picked notes. And just like in U2 songs, this type of riff creates a feeling of space, making the song sound very majestic. I have a feeling this will sound great when the band start to play it live.
“Molly’s Chambers” from the Kings Youth and Young Manhood debut was the band’s second single. It is very different from the band’s later stuff, and Caleb hasn’t quite found his singing style. But in no way does that take away from the song’s main riff. It’s pulsating and dirty, and since Caleb decided to sing along to the riff it becomes the backbone of the entire song.